Wellness Ambassadors celebrate successes after challenging first year
It's been almost a year since Life & Work Connections revamped and relaunched the University of Arizona Wellness Ambassadors program. Despite the unpredictable twists and turns of 2020, these hardworking employee volunteers have made a valuable impact on their colleagues' workplace well-being.
Since June, a total of 73 ambassadors have joined the team, representing 15% of University departments. As the program coordinator, I'm grateful for the good work that each and every one of them has done, and the fantastic partners they have shown themselves to be. Over the next year, I hope to see even more volunteers come on board, to serve an even greater proportion of the University community.
The strength of the program is in the way each ambassador works to understand their unit. They are that person on the ground, staying in touch with that department's rhythms, needs and hopes. Wellness Ambassadors don't just spread the word about Life & Work Connections programming – they highlight and create opportunities that fit with their co-workers' desires.
I'm excited to share some of the great activities they've done, and perhaps help spark ideas for you to bring to your own units.
Monthly wellness workshops in Athletics
Thomas Harris is the assistant athletics director for diversity, inclusion and employee engagement for the Department of Athletics. An active and enthusiastic member of the Wellness Ambassadors, he has established monthly Wellness Wednesdays, which offer voluntary one-hour presentations for employees on various topics.
Led by the clinical and sport psychology team, as well as Life & Work Connections, the sessions have addressed burnout, anxiety and more. "Our employees know that they have resources if they need help, because we highlight those resources during our workshops," Harris said.
Harris hopes that Wellness Wednesdays provide his colleagues with a safe space to discuss well-being issues, and he believes it has advanced his goal to build a culture of belonging and care.
"Our staff has told us that they feel encouraged, supported and valuable after attending the sessions," he said.
Making time, and connections, at Nursing
In the College of Nursing, Yvette Mathesen serves as coordinator for the Steele Innovative Learning Center, a place for students to learn and practice skills needed in clinical nursing. For nearly two years, she has hosted a midweek gathering where faculty and staff members come together for learning, sharing and camaraderie.
The alcohol-free "HAppy Hour" – so named to emphasize the value of laughter – moved to the virtual realm with the onset of the pandemic. As the Wellness Ambassadors program ramped up last summer, Mathesen made sure to make space for Life & Work Connections presentations in her schedule of chair yoga sessions, community service projects, and arts and crafts activities.
"The HAppy Hours have been so awesome, especially during the pandemic," said Paige Hacker Bravo, a nurse simulation specialist. "It's helped me to regularly build time in to address my own personal wellness, either through physical activities or social connectedness.
It also helps the College of Nursing be a stronger team, she added. "Whenever I need to reach out to someone I don't usually work with, I now have that preexisting connection."
Gratitude Wall goes digital at Pharmacy
Ambassador Elizabeth Pepper is coordinator for student services at the College of Pharmacy. One of her remote-work success stories? Bringing a favorite celebration of appreciation into the digital realm.
"The Gratitude Wall was suggested by one of our students back in 2020, right before the pandemic hit," Pepper said. "When everything moved to a virtual format, we put it into a Padlet (virtual bulletin board) online."
On the Gratitude Wall, students, faculty and staff in the college can post about anything they're grateful for or share joyful news. Others can "like" or comment on their posts. "It has really helped everyone maintain a connection with the PharmCat community," Pepper said.
College of Pharmacy employees also participated in Move Arizona, the University's new workplace movement initiative, this spring. The Office of Student Services team alone racked up more than 21,000 minutes of movement.
"It was quite fun and motivating for all involved," said Pepper, who served as team captain.
Indeed, more than 20% of this year's Move Arizona teams were led by an ambassador!
Gratitude and pride
This past year has been challenging for University employees in so many ways. I am thankful and proud of the work all the Wellness Ambassadors have done, and continue to do, to help each other, their co-workers and our whole Wildcat community.
As they endeavor to promote workplace wellness and strengthen a culture of well-being, the Wellness Ambassadors personify each of the University's values of integrity, compassion, exploration, adaptation, inclusion and determination.
Christina Fisch is the employee wellness coordinator at Life & Work Connections, where she manages the Wellness Ambassadors program. She holds professional certifications from the Society for Human Resource Management and the International Association of Administrative Professionals and has more than 15 years of experience in higher education administrative support.
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A version of this article first appeared on the Life & Work Connections website.